An Account of James Monroe's Land Holdings
© Copyright and All Rights Reserved
By Christopher Fennell
Original Deeds and Records on Ash Lawn-Highland
The deed books maintained by the Office of the Clerk for the Circuit Court of Albemarle County reflect the following transfers related to the Highland property:
- 1793 -- A September 20, 1793 deed records the conveyance from Champe Carter and his wife, Maria, to James Monroe of 1,000 acres in exchange for consideration of "one thousand pounds current money of Virginia." ("Consideration" is a legal term used in deeds to indicate the price paid and that the exchange was legally binding.) This deed states in pertinent part:
This Indenture made this twentyeth day of September in the year of our Lord  between Champe Carter and Maria his wife of the County of Albemarle of the one part and James Monroe of the said County of the other part Winesseth that the said Champe and his wife for and in consideration of the sum of one thousand pounds current money of Virginia to them in hand paid, the receipt whereof they do hereby Acknowledge, have granted bargained sold and confirmed and by these presents do grant bargain sell and confirm unto the said James his heirs and assigns forever a certain tract or parcel of Land, situate, lying and being in the said County of Albemarle containing by estimation one thousand acres, be the same more or less, and bounded as followeth, to wit, on the south by a run on the eastern side of Duke's plantation and runing thence to the source of the said run and thence in a straight line to the top of the south west Mountains north to the Lands of Mr. Jefferson and thence by the Lands of Mazzei to the road and along the road south to the Begining to have and to hold the said tract of Land and all [and] singular the appurtenances thereunto belonging unto the said James Monroe his heirs and assigns . . . . In witness whereof the said Champe Carter and Maria his wife have hereunto set their hands and affixed their seals the day month and year above written (word south interlined before signed) . . . ." This agreement was signed and sealed by Champe Carter and Maria Carter, and witnessed by William Wardlaw, Thomas Bill, and Rupert H. Allin. It was produced, acknowledged and recorded at the December 1793 Court. John Nicholas was the Clerk of Court. Deed Book 11, pages 163-65.
It is not apparent from the Deed Book which word "south" had been "interlined before" the Carters signed the instrument. It is notable that Maria also signed this instrument. Wives often did not sign and seal such instruments, and rather only appeared at Court for the production, acknowledgement and recording of the document.
- 1800 -- March 3, 1800 Indenture agreement recording the conveyance from William McGehee and Elizabeth, his wife, of life estate tenancy rights in 75 acres to James Monroe in exchange for 60 pounds consideration. This Indenture stated in pertinent part:
Witnesseth that whereas by an Indenture of bargain and lease bearing date [of September 7, 1791] from Edward Carter to the said William McGehee and Elizabeth his wife thereby conveying unto them during their lives one certain tract of land containing by estimation seventy five acres and bounded as follows, to wit, Begining at a red oak on the west side of the road thence along a line marked by the parties without a compass N 28 1/2 W 16 poles N 16 W 56 poles N 27 W 27 poles N 24 W 12 po to a chestnut in the old field thence N 36 E 56 poles to a white oak in Thomas Jefferson's line thence along his line South 58 E 142 poles to the above mentioned . . . Sullivan's corner red oak thence following the said road according to its meanders 160 poles to the begining and which Indenture is now of record in the County Court of Albemarle . . . . This Indenture was signed and sealed by William and Elizabeth McGehee by placing their marks, and was witnessed by Kemp Catlett, James Thompson, and Daniel Sullivan. It was produced and acknowledged by William McGehee to the Clerk of the Court and recorded on November 23, 1815. Deed Book 19, page 497.
Survey Book Records
- 1802 -- May 26, 1802 Indenture agreement recording the conveyance from Kemp Catlett and his wife, Sally, to James Monroe of 775 1/2 acres in exchange for consideration of 387 pounds and 15 shillings. This Indenture agreement stated in pertinent part:
This Indenture made and entered into this [May 26, 1802] between Kemp Catlett and Sally his wife of the County of Albemarle and Commonwealth of Virginia of the one part and James Monroe of the city of Richmond and commonwealth aforesaid of the other part, Witnesseth that the said Kemp [and] Sally for and in consideration of the sum of three hundred and eighty seven pounds fifteen shillings have bargained and sold and by these presents do bargain and sell unto the said James seven hundred and seventy five and one half acres of land lying on the waters of Buck Island creek in the county of Albemarle and in the commonwealth aforsaid and comprehending part of a tract of land formerly conveyed by Philip Mazzei to Peter Plumaro DeRieux and also another tract originally granted by this Commonwealth to Alexander Gordon which two tracts or parcels of land are enshrined in the single survey hereunto annexed . . . . This Indenture was signed and sealed by Kemp Catlett, and witnessed by Joseph Jones. It was produced and acknowledged by Kemp Catlett, and ordered to be recorded, at the January 3, 1803 Albemarle County Circuit Court. Deed Book 14, page 191.
- 1802 -- November 24, 1802 Indenture agreement recording conveyance from Anthony Mullins to James Monroe, "both of the County of Albemarle," of a tract of land "being a part of a tract purchased by said Anthony of a W. DeRieux bounded on the North, South and East by the lands of W[illiam] Page containing by estimation 150 acres" in exchange for consideration of "one hundred pounds" paid by Monroe. This Indenture agreement was signed and sealed by Anthony Mullins by placing his mark before the witnesses. His signing was witnessed by Aronett Herford, Cephas Shekell, John Watts, William Crank, and Lewis Carrell. The Indenture agreement was produced and acknowledged by Anthony Mullins, and ordered to be recorded, at the Albemarle Circuit Court on July 4, 1803. Deed Book 14, page 294.
- 1808 -- July 19, 1808 Indenture agreement recording conveyance by Anthony Geanniny and his wife, Mary Geanniny, to James Monroe of a tract of 200 acres, in exchange for consideration of "One hundred pounds Current money of Virginia" paid by Monroe. This tract was described as "adjoining the lands of Nicholas Geanniny, William Short, Charles Lacey, Waller Burrus, John Mansfield and James Monroe as expressed in a Deed of Trust to G. Garrett for the benefit of M. Credie Higginbotham . . . heretofore which interest is now relinquished by them in Consideration of the Said Monroes having executed his hand to them for one hundred pounds pay[able] 7th July 1809. . . ." This Indenture was signed and sealed by Anthony and Mary Geanniny. It was produced and acknowledged by three witnesses, and ordered to be recorded, at the February 6, 1809 Albemarle County Circuit Court. The witnesses were Richard Anderson, Richard Price, and David Higginbotham. Deed Book 16, pages 468-69.
- 1811 -- September 24, 1811 Indenture agreement recording the conveyance by John Henderson and Anne B. Henderson to James Monroe of a parcel on Buck Island Creek in exchange for consideration of 92 pounds and 8 shillings. This Indenture does not state the size of the parcel, but describes it as follows:
[O]ne certain tract or parcel of Land situate lying and being in the County of Albemarle on the waters of Buck Island and adjoining the Lands of the said James Monroe being the same Land that was surveyed for Bennett Henderson, assign of Reuben Coult by virtue of a Land Office treasure warrant N14055 dated 31st of August 1782 surveyed on the 31st of January 1787 of which survey a plat is hereto annexed . . . . Unfortunately, the survey referred to in this deed was not recorded in either the Deed Book or the Survey Books of Albemarle County. This Indenture was signed and sealed by John Henderson and witnessed by Joseph Price and James Spears. It was recorded by the Clerk of the Albemarle County Court four years later, on September 15, 1827, based on the oaths of the witnesses and the oath of David Higginbotham as an additional witness. Deed Book 26, page 448.
- 1811 -- October 22, 1811 Indenture agreement recording conveyance by John Watson, LM, and his wife Mary Watson, to James Monroe of a parcel of 12 1/4 acres for a purchase price of 55 pounds 2 shillings and 6 pence. This parcel is described as being bounded as follows:
Begining at a large Chestnut corner on Thomas Jefferson runing thence North thrity six and a half Degrees West twenty four poles to a Hickory thence South forty five degrees West ninety three and a half poles runing by a small persimmon tree and near a parcel of large rocks to a white oak thence South Sixty five degress East forty none poles to a stake thence North four degrees East thrity four poles to pointers and some large Chestnut sprouts thence North fifty nine and a 1/2 degrees East thrity eight poles to the Begining . . . . This Indenture was signed and sealed by John Watson LM, and Mary Watson, and witnessed by J. Higginbotham, Charles Vest, Edmund Bacon, and Joel Shiflett. It was produced and acknowledged by John Watson, and ordered to be recorded, at the November 4, 1811 session of the Albemarle County Circuit Court. Deed Book 17, pages 468-69.
The Court later issued an order on January 7, 1812, appointing John Key and Henirod Branheim, as "Gentlemen Justices of Albemarle County," to visit Mary Watson and question her to confirm her voluntary relinquishment of her dower rights in this property. They did so, and recorded under oath on July 3, 1812 that they were satisfied Mary had relinquished her rights voluntarily. Deed Book 18, pages 77-78.
- 1811 -- November 4, 1811 Indenture agreement recording conveyance by James Spears to James Monroe of 355 acres for a purchase price of $355.00 "current money of Virginia." This Indenture describes this property as "a certain tract or parcel of land situated lying and being in the county of Albemarle adjoining the lands of the said Monroe, of Thomas Jefferson, and Joel Shiflett, containing by estimation three hundred and fifty five acres be the smae more or less." This Indenture was signed and sealed by James Spears and Ann Spears, his wife. No witnesses were listed. It was produced and acknowledged by James Spears and Ann Spears, and ordered to be recorded, at the November 11, 1811 session of the Albemarle County Circuit Court. For that purpose, Ann Spears was "first priv[ate]ly examined as the Law directs" at that Court to determine whether she voluntarily relinquished her rights in the property. Deed Book 17, page 469-70.
- 1815 -- September 23, 1815 Indenture agreement recording the conveyance from James Monroe to "Charles C. Lacy" of 79 acres in exchange for consideration of $140.00 "lawful money of this Commonwealth." The Indenture describes this parcel as follows:
[A]certain tract or parcel of land lying and being in [Albemarle county] and on the waters of Buck Island creek it being a tract formerly belonging to Antony Gionniny containing seventy nine acres and bounded as follows Viz Begining at a small Persimmon tree (at the mouth of Prieis lane) standing on the north side of Brimmer road thence S 63 W 75 po. along [S]horts line to a rock in a branch corner to Lacy in Shorts line thence with said Lacy's line S 48 E 53 po. to a pine stump thence S 15 E 93 po. to a hickory [and] red oak on a Cleft of rocks corner to Walter Burrass thence N 59 E 93 po. to a large red oak thence S 71 E 4 po. to Brimmer road thence with the meanders of said road to the Begining . . . . This Indenture was signed and sealed by James Monroe, with Jesse W. Garth, John Boyd, and Stephen Lacy as witnesses. It was produced and acknowledged to the Clerk of the Albemarle County Court by the oaths of Garth, Boyd and Stephen Lacy, and recorded on November 4, 1816. Alexander Garrett was the Clerk. Deed Book 20, pages 216-17.
- 1817 -- October 1, 1817 Indenture agreement by James Monroe conveying a life estate tenancy in 800 acres of the Highland plantation to George Hay and Eliza Kortright Hay, Monroe's daughter, in exchange for consideration of "one Dollar . . . and in consideration of the natural love and affection which he beareth to his daughter." The parcel for which this life estate was granted was described as follows:
[T]he tract of land in the said County [of Albemarle] formerly part of an estate on which the said James Monroe now lives which tract lies to the east of the main road running thro[ugh] the said estate and comprising the field which adjoins the mill running in a straight line with the Northern boundary of the said field so far as to include all the said James Monroe's land South of the said mill [and] making by estimation eight hundred acres, reserving however to the said James Monroe [and] his heirs expressly the right of cutting timber off the said tract for the use of the saw mill and for the use and benefit of the said estate which will with adjacent land sufficient for the full and entire use and benefit thereof is also reserved to the said James Monroe . . . . This Indenture was signed and sealed by James Monroe with John Watson, William D. Fitch, and Fleming Douglass as witnesses. It was produced and acknowledged on November 3, 1817, by the oaths of these witnesses before the Clerk of the Albemarle County Court and recorded on that date. William Wertenbaker was the Clerk. Deed Book 21, pages 142-43.
This grant of life estates was relinquished and nullified by George and Eliza Hay, in exchange for $10.00 consideration, by a release which they signed and sealed on July 23, 1821, and which was recorded by the Clerk of the Albemarle County Court on August 15, 1821. Deed Book 22, pages 398-99.
- 1819 -- January 26, 1819 Indenture agreement recording conveyance of 253 acres from Joel Shiflett to James Monroe in exchange for $885.50 purchase price. This parcel is described as follows:
[The] tract or parcel of land lying and being in the said County of Albemarle and adjoining the lands of William Suttle and Joel Shiflett and James Monroe Viz Beginning a post on Wm. Suttle thence North 85 fifty five poles thence South 50 West fifty poles thence South 65 West one hundred and eighty two poles to a large pine thence South 28 West one hundred and twenty two poles to a maple thence South forty five East one hundred fifty poles to pointers thence N 32 East three hundred twenty five poles to the Beginning . . . . This Indenture was signed and sealed by Joel Shiflett and his wife Sarah. It was acknowledged by certifications from John Watson and James Clark, two magistrates of Albemarle County, and recorded by the Clerk of the Albemarle County Court on March 2, 1819. William Wertenbaker was the Clerk.
- 1821 -- May 7, 1821 Indenture agreement recording conveyance of 160 acres from Menoah Clarkson and Lucy, his wife, to James Monroe in exchange for consideration of 320 pounds. This parcel is described as follows:
[A] certain tract or parcel of land lying and being in the County [of Albemarle] and bounded as follows to wit Begining a chestnut and hickory pointers thence S 31 W 120 poles to pointers on the side of a hill thence S 67 1/2 E 91 poles to a chestnut on the top of the mountain runing thence along the top of the mountain 327 poles to a stake in a field thence N 68 W 49 poles to pointers in John Watsons line thence S 48 W 194 poles to the beginning containing by survey one hundred [and] sixty acres . . . . This Indenture agreement was signed and sealed by Menoah Clarkson and Lucy Clarkson by their marks, with Charles W. Maupin, W. Dyer, M.W.D. Jones and George M. Woods as witnesses. It was recorded by the Clerk of the Albemarle County Court on June 11, 1821, based on certifications of acknowledgement by justices of the peace. Ira Garrett was the Clerk. Deed Book 22, pages 370-71.
- 1822 -- February 7, 1822 Deed of Trust recording conveyance from "James Monroe [and] Eliza his wife of Albemarle County in the Commonwealth of Virginia but now residing in the City of Washington, District of Columbia" to "Richard Smith, Cashier of the Office of Discount and Deposit of the Bank of the United States," as trustee, of 1,000 acres and associated improvements. This conveyance was made to satisfy debts owed by Monroe to the Bank when such debts "shall be reasonably demanded" by the Bank. This property was to be held in trust and put up for sale by the Bank in the event Monroe could not pay his debts owed to the Bank. The tract conveyed by this Deed of Trust was described as follows:
[A]ll that piece or parcel of land lying in Albemarle County aforesaid [and] being one thousand acres of the tract of land on wh[ich] the said James Monroe resides, in said Albemarle County the said one thousand acres to be taken from the Southern part of the said tract and to begin for the same on the top of the Southwestern called there Carters Mountain [and] bounded on the west by Minoah Claxtons [Clarkson's] land, on the South by the land of David Higginbotham, on the East by land of Joel Shiflett, [and] on the North by the remaining part of the lands of said James Monroe . . . . This Deed of Trust was signed and sealed by James Monroe and Eliza, his wife, with R. Briscoe and R. Johnson, justices of the peace of the District of Columbia, as witnesses. It was recorded by the Clerk of the Albemarle County Circuit Court on February 16, 1822, based on the certifications by those justices of the peace. The Clerk was Ira Garrett. Deed Book 22, pages 488-89.
- 1823 -- April 4, 1823 Deed of Trust recording conveyance from "James Monroe [and] Eliza his wife now of the City of Washington at the District of Columbia," to "Richard Smith, Cashier of the Office of Discount and Deposit of the Bank of the United States," as trustee, of 3,500 acres and associated improvements to satisfy debts owed by Monroe to the Bank. This Deed stated that Monroe at that time was "indebted to the said Bank of the United States in the sum of thirty five thousand one hundred [and] five dollars and ninety seven cents." Monroe gave a promissory note for this sum to the Bank on the same day as this Deed, and the Deed of Trust was given as security for the payment of that note and that amount of debt. These 3,500 acres of property, which included the 1,000 acres conveyed in the earlier 1822 Deed of Trust, were to be held in trust and put up for sale by the Bank in the event Monroe could not pay those debts. The total tract conveyed by this Deed of Trust was described as follows:
[A]ll that piece or parcel or tract of Land Lying in Albemarle county in the Commonwealth of Virginia about five miles from Charlottesville and about three and a half from Milton extending on both sides of the Southwest or Carters Mountain and bounded on the north by the lands of Thomas Jefferson and Eli Alexander, on the east by the lands of Joel Shiflett and Charles Lacey, on the south by the lands of David Higginbotham, on the west by the lands of Minoah Claxton [Clarkson], Mr. Winn [and] William Meriwether, said piece parcel or tract containing thirty five hundred acres of land more or less . . . . This Deed of Trust was signed and sealed by James Monroe, Eliza Monroe, and Richard Smith. It was recorded by the Clerk of the Albemarle County Circuit Court on May 30, 1823, based on the certifications of William Thorton and John Chalmers, two justices of the peace of the District of Columbia. The Clerk was Ira Garrett. Deed Book 23, pages 392-95.
- 1826 -- January 1, 1826 Indenture agreement recording conveyance from James and Elizabeth Monroe to Edward O. Goodwin (spelled "Goodwyn" at times) of 907 acres of the Highlands property in exchange for consideration of $18,140. This parcel is described as follows:
[O]ne certain tract or parcel of land lying and being in the County of Albemarle, known by the name and title of highlands, containing by a survey made by Maj[or] William Tompkins of Fluvanna nine hundred and seven acres, and bounded as followeth (to wit) begining on the top of a mountain at a corner on Thomas Jefferson's line and running thence down the head waters of Carols Creek to a poplar stump, thence along the out line of said Monroe according to said Tompkin's survey and along Eli Alexander's line to a white oak thence along the line marked out on said Tompkin's plat to which reference is had for greater certainty to the lower line of Blenheim tract along said line South to a spring branch thence up the same to the black smith shop and barn of said Monroe so as to include them both, thence up the road to the mountain, and over the said mountains to a corner of John Watson's line and along said line to the beginning . . . . This Indenture was signed and sealed by James Monroe, and witnessed by Charles Downing and William Moon. It was produced and acknowledged by James Monroe to the Clerk of the Albemarle County Court on March 13, 1826, and recorded on that date based on that acknowledgement and on the oaths of the witnesses. Ira Garrett was the Clerk. Deed Book 27, pages 264-65.
Monroe also obtained on January 1, 1826 a full release from the Bank of the United States of its security interest in this land. That release is described below.
Goodwin apparently waited a couple of years before moving to his new residence in Albemarle County. He ran a public notice in the November 1828 editions of the Virginia Advocate stating as follows:
Edward O. Goodwin, Attorney at Law, having removed from his former residence in Dinwiddie county, to North Blenheim, in the county of Albemarle, and in the immediate vicinity of Charlottesville, will attend, regularly, the Superior and Inferior Courts of Albemarle county only. (Virginia Advocate, Nov. 8, 1828, Vol. II, No. 16, p. 4, col. 4) As seen in this notice, Goodwin would prefer to use the name of "North Blenheim" for this property, rather than "Highland."
- 1826 -- January 1, 1826 Indenture agreement recording the conveyance from "Richard Smith, Cashier of the Bank of the United States in the City of Washington," to James Monroe "of the County of Loudoun" of a full release and discharge of the security interest held by the Bank in a 907 acre tract that was part of the total 3,500 acres for which Monroe had conveyed a Deed of Trust to the Bank on April 4, 1823. This January 1826 release stated in pertinent part:
[T]he said James Monroe having paid or secured otherwise to said Bank a part of the sum to wit [$18,140.00] due by him to the said Bank [and] the said Monroe having requested that a part of said tract consisting of  acres by a survey of Maj[or] William Tompkins amounting in value to the said sum of [$18,140.00] should be released by the said Smith to the said Monroe. The release went on to describe this 907 acre parcel, for which the Bank granted a full discharge, as follows:
[B]egining on the top of a mountain at a corner with Thomas Jeffersons line [and] runing thence down the head waters of Carroles Creek to a poplar stump thence along the outward line of said Monroe [and] along Eli Alexanders line to a white oak thence along a line called on said Tompkins plat the lower line of Blenheim tract to its intersection with a spring Branch [and] up the same to the barn [and] Blacksmith shop of said Monroe so as to include them both thence up the said road to the mountain [and] over the same to a corner on John Watson's line [and] along the said line to the begining . . . . This release was signed and sealed by Richard Smith. It was recorded by the Clerk of the Albemarle County Court on March 13, 1826, based on certifications of the signature. Ira Garrett was the Clerk. Deed Book 25, pages 478-79.
- 1827 -- March 22, 1827 Indenture agreement recording conveyance from James Monroe "of the County of Loudoun" and Elizabeth, his wife, to "the President, Directors [and] Company of the Bank of the United States" of the 3,500 acre Highland tract in exchange for consideration of $1.00 and full discharge and release of Monroe from all debts he owed to that Bank. The Highland property is described in this Indenture in the same manner as in the April 4, 1823 Deed of Trust described above and set forth at Deed Book 23, page 392.
Monroe had sold 907 acres of the 3,500 acre total to Edward Goodwin on January 1, 1826. The Bank had issued a release concerning that 907 acres at the time of that sale. This March 1827 Indenture further specified that:
[I]t is timely understood Between the parties hereto [i.e., the Monroes and the Bank of the United States] that nothing in this Deed contained is to be considered as having effect of any sort on that portion of the said Tract of land which has been sold with the Consent of the said bank to Edward Goodwyn and in relation to which there exists an arrangement between the said Bank [and] the said Goodwyn in which the said James Monroe has no concern . . . . This Indenture was signed and sealed by James and Elizabeth Monroe, with James Wallace and George Hay as witnesses. It was certified on March 22, 1827 by Burr Powell and Abner Gibson, two justices of the peace for Loudoun County. It was recorded by the Clerk of the Albemarle County Court on April 10, 1827 based on those certifications. Deed Book 26, pages 322-24.
- 1827 -- April 12, 1827 Indenture agreement recording the conveyance from William Champe Carter, and Maria, his wife, to James Monroe "late President of the United States" of 442 acres in exchange for consideration of "various sums paid" and for "for the further sum of One dollar."
This Indenture confirmed that this tract had been conveyed to Monroe in 1793, along with the original 1,000 acres, "which was bequeathed to the said [Champe] Carter by his father Edward Carter deceased [and] formed originally a part of the Blenheim tract, Situate eastwardly of the road formerly leading from Milton to Warren [and] adjacent to the lands of David Higginbotham." Higginbotham had purchased William Short's property to the south of Highland in 1813. This Indenture was signed and sealed by William Champe Carter and Maria C. Carter. It was certified by Samuel A. Storrow and Daniel Ward, two justices of the peace of Albemarle County, on April 13, 1827. The Indenture was recorded by the Clerk of the Albemarle County Circuit Court, based on those certifications, on July 17, 1827. Ira Garrett was Clerk. Deed Book 26, pages 308-09.
- 1834 -- May 3, 1834 deed recording conveyance from Edward O. Goodwin to Bernard H. Buckner. This conveyance is described as "all that tract, piece or parcel of land lying in the County of Albemarle in the State of Virginia on the East side of the Southwest Mountain (called North Blenheim) . . . containing six hundred acres more or less, together with all buildings, improvements, rights privileges, etc." The purchase price was $9,000. This deed was produced, acknowledged and recorded on June 18, 1834. Deed Book 31, pages 428-30.
- 1837 -- September 21, 1837 deed recording conveyance from Bernard H. Buckner and Fanny Buckner, his wife, to Alexander Garrett of "a tract or parcel of land containing [approximately] 600 acres, lying [and] being in the County of Albemarle on the [East] side of the South West Mt." The purchase price was $9,500. This deed was produced, acknowledged and recorded on September 21, 1837. Deed Book 35, pages 237-39.
- 1850 -- January 10, 1850 deed recording conveyance from Alexander Garrett and Evelina Garrett, his wife, to Thomas T. Pretlow and Clarisa Pretlow, his wife, of "a certain tract or parcel of land lying [and] being in the said County of Albemarle on the South East side of the South West Mountain, and containing [approximately] 603 1/16 acres." This conveyance was made for consideration of $5.00 and "love and affection." The deed was produced, acknowledged and recorded on April 2, 1857. Deed Book 49, pages 38-40.
- 1857 -- February 25, 1857 deed recording conveyance from Thomas T. Pretlow and Clarisa Pretlow to George M. Bowen of "a certain tract or parcel of land lying and being in the County of Albemarle, Virginia called Ashlawn, containing by estimation 672 9/16 acres, situated on the South West Mtn., adjoining the lands of Price, Sneed [and] others." The purchase price was $20,000. This deed was produced, acknowledged and recorded on October 21, 1859. Deed Book 58, page 196.
- 1867 -- January 18, 1867 deed recording conveyance from George M. Bowen to John E. Massey of "two certain tracts or parcels of land lying and being in the County of Albemarle, Virginia, one of them containing [approximately] 535 1/2 acres, the other containing [approximately] 95 1/4 acres along the right of way over two public roads." The purchase price was "$15,000 Confederate dollars plus bond." This deed was produced, acknowledged and recorded on January 18, 1867. Deed Book 62, page 276.
- 1872 -- April 13, 1872 deed recording conveyance from John E. Massey to Joseph T. Massey of "three certain tracts or parcels of land lying [and] being in the County of Albemarle, Virginia, One of them containing [approximately] 535 acres, the second containing [approximately] 95 1/4 acres lying in the 'Flat Woods' adjoining the lands of Sneed, Rogers [and] others, the third containing 10 acres, being the same land conveyed to Massey by Benjamin Sneed on 5 January, 1869." The consideration for this conveyance included $335.51 and assumption of various debts. This deed was produced, acknowledged and recorded on April 13, 1872. Deed Book 67, page 129.
- 1879 -- March 10, 1879 deed recording conveyance from Joseph T. Massey to John E. Massey of "[a]ll the property, both real and personal lying [and] being in the County of Albemarle in the State of Virginia which was conveyed by him by his said brother John E. Massey by Deed of Bargain [and] Sale dated 13 April, 1872." Consideration for this conveyance was "$1.00 [and] love [and] good will [and] various services performed." This deed was produced, acknowledged and recorded on August 9, 1886. Deed Book 86, pages 475-76.
- 1901 -- March 29, 1899 will providing for conveyance from John E. Massey to W.W. Massey and Mary H. Massey of "my farm, 'Ashlawn,' and my 'Flat Woods' land." The conveyance stated: "It is my desire that my son W.W. Massey take my farm, 'Ash Lawn,' [and] my 'Flat Woods' land at a fair valuation, and pay to his sister one half of its valuation, the payment to be made satisfactory to her." This estate was probated on May 21, 1901. W.W. Massey was executor. Will Book 31, page 2.
- 1930 -- January 24, 1930 deed recording conveyance from Mary H. Massey and other heirs of John E. Massey to Jay W. Johns of "a tract of [approximately] 535 1/2 acres, with buildings and improvement thereon . . . [and] a tract of [approximately] 95 1/4 acres . . . [both of which are approximately] 4 miles from Charlottesville, Virginia [and] are known as 'Ash Lawn,' containing in the aggregate [approximately] 630 3/4 acres." The purchase price was $50,000. This deed describes the 535 1/2 acres parcel as follows, based on "the metes and bounds thereof on plat of H.P. Berkeley, C.E., dated March 20th, 1929":
Beginning at pointers on a bank of old Blenhaim Road, a corner with C. Houchins; thence S 22 [degrees] 30 [minutes] W 3333 feet to a white oak on a bank of branch, a corner with G.B. Wallace; thence along the branch N 14 [degrees] W 250 feet, N 32 [degrees] W 450 feet, N 48 [degrees] 50 [minutes] W 250 feet, N 29 [degrees] 30 [minutes] W 300 feet, N 60 [degrees] W 700 feet, to a corner on the bank of a branch, a corner with Lee Bishop; thence S 66 [degrees] W 99 feet, thence N 58 [degrees] W 478 feet; thence N 82 3/4 [degrees] W 99 feet; thence N 62 [degrees] W 468 feet; thence N 39 [degrees] W 792 feet; thence N 25 [degrees] W 99 feet; thence N 8 1/2 [degrees] W 231 feet near wild cherry on bank of branch; thence N 39 [degrees] W 462 feet to a forked walnut; thence N 52 [degrees] 30 [minutes] W 2046 [feet]; thence N 67 [degrees] 30 [minutes] W 676 1/2 feet; thence N 25 [degrees] W 1056 feet; thence N 49 3/4 [degrees] E 569 1/4 feet; thence N 36 [degrees] 30 [minutes] E 800 1/4 feet; thence N 11 [degrees] 45 [minutes] E 1078 feet; thence N 28 [degrees] E 1029 1/2 feet; to a concrete monument a corner with J.A. Patterson; thence S 61 [degrees] E 46 feet to a center of branch; thence along said branch S 50 [degrees] E 300 feet, S 55 [degrees] E 400 feet, S 47 1/4 [degrees] E 300 feet, S 30 [degrees] E 1189.6 feet to a poplar stump; thence S 45 1/2 [degrees] E 5461 1/2 feet to the point of beginning . . . . These are the metes and bounds of the Ash Lawn-Highland property as it exists today. This deed was produced, acknowledged and recorded on February 4, 1930. Deed Book 207, pages 452-53.
- 1936 -- February 1, 1936 deed recording conveyance from Jay W. Johns to Helen L. Johns of a life estate in Ashlawn. This conveyance stated: "That for and in consideration of natural love and affection and $1.00, Jay W. Johns grants, bargains, sells, and conveys unto Helen L. Johns, a joint life estate with himself so long as they both shall live, and the remainder in fee simple, if she survives him, in all that certain tract of land with improvements thereon situated about 4 miles Southeast of Charlottesville in Albemarle County, Virginia, known as 'Ash Lawn' made up of two parcels containing in the aggregate 630 3/4 acres." This deed was produced, acknowledged and recorded on April 3, 1936. Deed Book 231, page 81.
- 1970 -- December 31, 1970 will providing for the conveyance from Jay W. Johns to the College of William and Mary of the property known as Ashlawn. This will stated: "I give, devise, and bequeath to the College of William and Mary of Virginia, a non-profit agency of the Commonwealth of Virginia, for its educational purposes, my property in Albemarle County, Virginia, known as Ashlawn, the home of President James Monroe . . . . It is my desire that the college will continue to operate the property as a historic shrine for the education of the general public." Will Book 52, page 8.
There are official Survey Books for the 18th and 19th centuries maintained by the Office of the Clerk for the Circuit Court of Albemarle County. Surveys were conducted and presented at Court with some of the deeds described above. For example, the 1826 deed conveying Highland from James Monroe to Edward O. Goodwin states that a survey by Major William Thompkins of Fluvanna was attached to the deed presented at Court. Deed Book 27, page 264. However, the Survey Books do not contain any copies of surveys of the Ash Lawn-Highland property. Survey Books 1-3.
Such surveys likely were not recorded in the official Survey Books of the Court unless it was specifically requested. Those Survey Books contain hand-drawn copies of the original surveys, and these hand-drawn copies are relatively small in size. Parties to transfers may have elected not to request recording of their surveys in the Survey Books due to this limited scale of the recording. Road Work Orders
Another source of information on past property locations are "Road Work Orders." As Jefferson observed in his 1781 "Notes on Virginia":
The roads are under the government of the county courts, subject to being controlled by the general court. They order new roads to be opened whenever they think them necessary. The inhabitants of the county are by them laid off into precincts, to each of which they allot a convenient portion of the public roads to be kept in repair. During the late 1700's and early 1800's, the roadways in Albemarle were built and maintained by private property owners, pursuant to orders of the Albemarle County Circuit Court. These orders are recorded in "Order Books" which have been maintained by the Court.
Monroe apparently saw the need for additional road access in the area of the Highland at the time of his purchase, and he petitioned the Court in 1792 and 1793 for arrangements to construct additional road access:
- June 14, 1792, Order Book 1791-93, page 168:
On the petition of James Monroe, George Divers, Jesse Lewis, Charles Goodman, Achillis Rogers and George Wayt or any three of them being first Sworn are appointed to View a way from the foot of the Stony ridge the most conveniet and best way between the s[aid] Monroe and Alexander McKinzie to the main Road near John Alphins and make a report of the Conveniences and inconveniences attending the same and whether any private individuals will be Injured Thereby.
- April 12, 1793, Order Book 1791-93, page 365:
On the petition of James Monroe, for a view of a away from Jesse Lewis Shop into the three choped road at the Stony Ridge below the house of the said James, it is ordered that George Divers, Jesse Lewis, Charles Goodman, Achilles Rogers, George Wayt and Thomas Garth or any three of them do view the said way and make report f the conveniences and inconveniences, that will attend the opening the same and the Injuries that any private individuals will sustain thereby.
- June 14, 1793, Order Book 1791-93, page 433:
On the motion of James Monroe the order for overruling the motion for establishing the road petitioned for by the said James Monroe, is rescinded, and the said Road established agreeable to the following report. In Obedience to an order of Court to us directed bearing date the twelfth day of April, 1793, We George Divers, Jesse Lewis and George Wayt have viewed a way for a road from Jesse Lewis Shop into the road at the Stony ridge, and are of Opinion that the way now open through the old field near John Alphins thence through Colo James Munroes plantation and the layne between the said Munroe and Alexander McKinzie, and thence to the Stony ridge is considerably nearer as a good way for a road as the present way, for which reasons we think it would be an accommodation to the publick, as to the inconveniences we are of the opinion there will be none, as the road will not touch the land of any person except that of the said Munroe who is the petitioner.
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Last Modified: September 2, 2012